2007March27, Tuesday

High Calvinist Interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9: Conclusion

Posted in Theology at 12:02 by Trey Austin

I just wanted to get one final word in on the video which is one of the best succint examples of the High Calvinists interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9. 

Other posts on the topic:
Calvin v. (Some) Calvinists on the Interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 (<———video imbedded here)
High Calvinist Interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9: Equivocation
High Calvinist Interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9: A Different Jehovah
High Calvinist Interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9: Creflo Dollar Would Be Proud

I want everyone reading these to understand that i am not against Calvinism. I’m not against the doctrine of decretal election (though, i don’t think it’s the center of Christian theology as some would like to make it, and i would say that covenantal or corporate election is just as important, if not moreso, in Scripture); i do affirm it wholeheartedly. I just know that, as Calvinism rose again in prominence in the mid-to-late 20th century, there were a few factors that caused the High Calvinist version to be the most prominent.

First, there was a focus on the writings of many of the later Reformers (especially the Puritans) who were more often High Calvinists and focused on decretal election over against Arminians that they faced. Many of the publishers who put those works into the hands of ministers and laymen (like Banner of Truth) are wonderful organizations, but they were, unwittingly, perpetuating a more extreme version of Calvinism that did not have the balance that earlier Reformed doctors had and that later, more balanced, Calvinistic theologians had.

The second thing that caused it was the great overwhelming numbers of Arminians in the American Church altogether. I don’t mean Arminians in any particular denominations like the Presbyterian Churches (though, there were those), but i mean Arminians everywhere in all denominations in the Church in America. Many of the men who became Reformed were members of or were reared in Arminian-leaning churches. The reaction that follows from that pendulum swing is understandable but unfortunate. I myself was victim of this mentality when i came out of the Southern Baptist milieu.

Both of those factors led to Calvinists making election, predestination, reprobation, total inability, &c., the central points of argument with their Arminian family-members, neighbors, friends, church members and the like. They would (and still do!) argue to the far opposite extreme of everything that Arminians say about freedom, Christ as Savior of the world, Christ offered to all men alike, the necessity of making a choice to follow Christ. What is unfortunate is that, in a balanced way, all those things are true. That is the responsibility side of things that God tells us about in the precepts of his Word. That’s the place that the Arminian camps almost exclusively. On th other hand, Calvinists harp incessantly on the sovereignty side of things, where God speaks about what he does in his providence. Both are true, they both compliment and balance one another doctrinally, and there is no contradiction between them. But Calvinists so make their identity in being against so many things, not least of which is Arminianism (but this also includes Pentecostalism, Romanism, &c.), that their very identity is wrapped up in affirming what Arminians deny and denying what they affirm. For practical pruposes, what happens is that the precepts of God are swallowed up by the decrees and providence of God, human responsibility is swallowed up by divine sovereignty, and the Reformed faith takes pride in how they are despised and rejected by Christianity at large; they become martyrs for Christ against all those who have perverted the Gospel. You can see how very dangerous a road to go down that this can be.

The bad thing in the mix is that it doesn’t properly see the common ground between all Christians, regardless of disagreements on tangential (yes, i said it, Calvinism and the important pet doctrines therein are tangential to the whole of Christianity) issues. They fail to show the love of Christ to those with whom they disagree, and while trying to prove that they are right, ostrasize all those who may be mistaken but yet are sincerely trying to honor Christ in affirming what they know to be true about human responsibility. Those poor brothers and sisters see Calvinism, because of these extreme propogators of it, as an extremist reaction that not only goes too far but goes into areas that we have no business trying to delve into. One can see why those folks would be somewhat justified in rejecting Calvinism; even the most clear and plain affirmations of God’s desire for the salvation of all men are twisted and mangled through the hermeneutical workshop of many Calvinists. Why? For the sake of the system.

At the end of that video, the narrator asked the question, “So i ask you honestly, can there be any doubt who [sic] God is talking to and about in Second Peter chapter three?” Well, yes, there is doubt. The very term humas or “you” (plural) is not grammatically restricted in the verse at hand. Even Reformed Baptist pastor and theologian, Erroll Hulse, says that very thing in a short article he wrote about John Owen and 2 Peter 3:9. He says this:

A problem surrounds the pronoun in the preceding clause (humas). If we allow that (eis humas) is preferable to both the textual variants (eis haymas) and (di muas), the question remains: what is the extent of reference of those to whom God’s longsuffering (makrothumei) is displayed? Is it displayed to readers of the letter, to believers, only? Or is it shown to the ungodly as well? The personal pronoun itself has a built-in ambiguity. Even if Peter intended it to refer particularly to the recipients of the letter there is no evidence that would demand its restriction _solely_ to them. At least there is no _certainty_ that the longsuffering of God is restricted to believers. Even if we were to restrict the scope of God’s longsuffering in 2 Peter 3:9 to believers, that of itself would not require of us similarly to restrict the reference of the following clause since the latter might be intended to enunciate a general principle (God is not willing that any should perish) which would undergird the more pointedly specific statement that preceded (God is longsuffering toward you)” (all notes and emphases original).

I invite you to read the rest of this short article here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/Hulse_on_2_Pet_3_9.pdf.

The video that i posted here and have successively critiqued is a good example of just what i’m talking about. He went through all of those things in a patronizing and demeaning way to prove that anyone who would reject the interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 that he espouses is just stupid, ignorant, and doesn’t get what Peter really meant. Well, the fact is, there are some very good Calvinists who don’t think that’s a fair reading of 2 Peter 3:9, and beyond that, we believe that such an approach to all of these issues is flawed. It is little wonder that the Reformed faith has so flowndered over the past 300 years throughout the world. If Christ could take away the Kingdom from the Jews and give it to a people who would bear its fruit, surely he can take ascendancy in the Church away from Calvinists (which we once enjoyed) because we have been so caught up in these hair-splitting debates and not been about the work of the Kingdom. He’s the head of the Church, after all, and the members of his body serve at his pleasure.

My desire is to see us return to a balanced Calvinism—not just on issues of soteriology, but also on ecclesiology, sacramentology, pneumatology, doctrine of revelation, and others. I think that will do a couple of things: it will be an opportunity for us to reach a more healthy ecumenicism that properly reflects the Catholic nature of the Church; and it will allow us to see how all of those things are not discreet and compartmented little doctrines to be learnt, nor is Scripture to be treated like ore that we need to refine into doctrinal propositions, but that all of those things are interrelated and tied together in one whole story that we have been caught up into by following the Lord Christ. There is so much more to him than a few distinct propositions. Those who think that that is the way to properly worship and glorify God have missed so much of what it means to be a child of God, a recipient of the faith of Christ, and one of his disciples.

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3 Comments »

  1. Amber said,

    This is something S and I have been talking about ever since we left the confines of our quiet little PCA worlds. “Ecumenical” used to be a bad word to us, now it’s what we long for, in the context you’re speaking of, of course. Nice to see a theological apology for it; we’ve pretty much been pragmatic about it all these years.

  2. Trey Austin said,

    I’m glad to see you’ve stopped by and read my blog! Tell your dear husband that i missed seeing him last time, and that i look forward to seeing him when you’re around again.

    The PCA is an interesting place. I’m in the midst of writing a post on the PCA, but there are lots of things that make it a strange ecclesiastical home. May Jehovah reform her as he does the whole Bride, and may she be as spotless as God intends.

  3. Amber said,

    and for the record, we *heart* the PCA, including all its crazy people. Lord have mercy on us all!


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